What Might Look Like Abandoned Feral Babies May Not Need Rescue

Advice on what to do if you come across young animals that seem abandoned in the wild.

The Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia wants people to know it’s denning season and it’s not uncommon for newborn deer to be discovered on lawns, in flower beds and gardens, or in areas of tall grass near houses. What should people do if they find one? The ministry said he should be left alone.

No good deed goes unpunished and well-meaning people trying to save what they believe to be abandoned feral babies could do more harm than good.

“The mother may be out of sight but is probably nearby… The mother deer will be wary of you, and the human presence might keep her from coming back. Give the fawn space and keep children and pets away to allow the doe to come back and care for her fawn,” police said.

“You should only ask for help for a fawn if it shows obvious signs of injury or distress, such as wandering and crying constantly; has swollen eyes, shows signs of trauma, such as visible injuries or broken bones; or if there is a dead lactating doe nearby. If an animal displays these signs, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, veterinarian, or animal welfare police for further assistance and instruction,” according to Fairfax County Animal Welfare Police.

It is common for offspring of wild animals of all kinds to be left alone by their parents while they go out to find food and produce milk.

“At HRA, we see these animals arrive as abandoned orphans, when in reality, well-meaning people needlessly removed them from their parents’ care,” according to the Humane Rescue Alliance. “If you find yourself in the presence of a baby wild animal and you don’t know what to do, always call a professional before trying to handle the baby.”

What about baby birds?

National Audubon Society experts recommend that if you think you’ve found a sick or injured fledgling or baby bird, call a rehabilitator, national wildlife agency or veterinarian immediately — and don’t feed it.

So-called fledglings are featherless or nearly featherless fledglings that have likely fallen from a nest. The National Audubon Society says if you come across one, return the bird to a nest — whether real or homemade — keep an eye out for the parents. If they don’t return within the hour, call a wildlife rehabilitation center.

Details on what to do in other specific circumstances can be found on the National Audubon’s Society website.

In DC, the Humane Rescue Alliance works with City Wildlife to rehabilitate many sick and injured creatures such as birds, opossums, squirrels, turtles, snakes, frogs or lizards.

According to the Humane Rescue Alliance, signs that an animal may need rescue include:

  • Bleeding or open sores
  • They fell from the mouth of another animal
  • They cannot use a leg or a wing
  • They are cold, damp, or covered in maggots or flies

The Humane Rescue Alliance has advice on how to handle encounters with baby rabbits, squirrels, foxes and raccoons on its website.

Licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Virginia can be found at the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.

Groups licensed to work with wildlife in Maryland can be found at the Maryland Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.

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